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From 2 November 2003 Issue

I Guess I Am a Picky Eater
By Greg Lawson - ParkStranger@aol.com

Recently we did a music festival in the park I work at, and I had more than the usual number of Veg Encounters during that weekend. By that I mean that the subject of animal rights and veganism is not often a topic of conversation at work unless I instigate it, and I try not to be too preachy. (Sure). When other people bring up vegan diets, I consider that a Veg Encounter. When it happens once a day for a few days, I consider that an unusual opportunity.

On a scale of one to ten, with one being a health oriented vegan and 10 being a radical animal rights vegan terrorist, I guess I am a seven or maybe an eight. I rate myself that high because I am president of my local veg society, journalist for Animal Rights Online and cohost the animal rights radio show, ACT, Animal Concerns of Texas. But I would never burn anything that wasn't in a pan on my stove. My acts of terror will remain causing fear in the minds of meateaters.

Encounter One: On the opening night of the festival, the park had a reception with food provided by the staff of the local Time Warner cable group. That was nice of them, but the only vegan items were pickles and onions. Barbecue beef sandwiches and baked beans with ham and coleslaw with mayo were the other items. Sheesh, not even chips and salsa.

The Superintendent of our park apologized to me, now that's a veg encounter. She said they should have had a veggie platter. I said, "Lot's of people would like a platter of veggies at a reception buffet and not all meat items." She said "Greg, they have coleslaw." I told her I didn't eat brands of mayo that have eggs in them. Her secretary said "You must have a hard time finding things to eat being such a picky eater."

I said "No, I usually cook my own foods or eat with friends who know how to cook without animal products. And believe it or not, some restaurants in El Paso serve vegetables." No life changing conversation here, but some seeds planted.

Encounter Two: The next morning I met with the sound engineer we had hired to mix the audio for the festival. He had obviously lost some weight since I had seen him last year. The first words out of his mouth were "Are you still doing that vegan thing?" "Yup, still am," I replied.

"I have given up beef and cheese. I still eat some fish and poultry, but my wife has started cooking with a lot of soy products. It's amazing how much better I feel," he told me. I told him about the health food store where I shop, and how they carry soy salami, pepperoni, pastrami, soy buffalo wings and so many other soy meat substitutes. I told him he should try some of the chicken and fish substitutes they have for sale and VeganRella cheese.

I offered him some of the hot and spicy soy jerky I was snacking on. "Wow," he said. "This is good." Then I said "It's not about 'giving up' meat and dairy, it's not about being deprived of some foods, it's about discovering new foods and a whole new way of eating."

Encounter Three: Later that afternoon, Mike, one of the rangers I supervise, introduced me to his girlfriend. "Nice to meet you, Belinda," I said. "Mike told me that you have just gone vegetarian." "Yes," she said. "I have Dr. Steve Best for philosophy class. Two weeks ago he showed a video and I stopped eating meat." Similar words I have heard many times before.

Belinda told me how Mike enjoyed a soy chiken dish she had prepared the night before and I gave her my recipe for sweet and sour chiken. I also directed her to my website for information about veg nutrition. www.utep.edu/vsep
Mike has to work on the night of our Veg Society Thanksgiving dinner, I think I'll give his girlfriend an invitation.

Encounter Four: On the third and final day of the festival, David, the Master of Ceremonies for one of the music areas started a conversation with me. David does a folk music program on the same radio station we do ACT radio. "Hey Greg, I love your show, Animal Concerns of Texas."

"Thanks, David. I am glad you listen," I said. "Because of your show I have stopped eating veal. I also stopped eating chicken because of the battery cages and debeaking and other things they do to those poor birds," he said.

"David, let me tell you a nasty little secret of the dairy industry. In order to produce milk, dairy cows are raped by dairy farmers each year because cows only produce milk if they are pregnant. Most of the offspring become veal calves. The veal industry is a direct offshoot of the milk industry. If you really care about veal calves, you should avoid milk and cheese."

"Oh, my God, I never thought about that," he said. Then I told David about my favorite brands of soymilk and vegan cheese. He took out a notepad and started writing.

How very neat, so many Veg Encounters in one weekend. And Yes, I guess I am a picky eater, but it's so easy. As best I can, I just avoid foods that cause pain or death to the other creatures with whom I share this planet. I'm picky that way.

Go on to Jane Goodall Asks Film & Tv Industry Leaders To End Use of
Great Apes

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